Sunday, September 19, 2010

Concert Review: Eye Music, Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center, 9/17/2010

The Stage Set-Up: piano (lid closed), moon-lute, guitar, kaen, wad of aluminum foil, sticks, plastic cups, Celtic harp (prepared), Indian harmonium, another guitar, Tibetan bells, another kaen, wooden slats on a table, wok, more sticks, wires, flute, plastic bottle, lnaw, sax, stones, pie plates, light bulb, book in French, European harmonium, wooden toys, whiskey bottle (glass), auto horn, seashells, cello, more stones, slabs of ice frozen onto a string and suspended above a metal mixing bowl with a mike attached.

The Band:
(photograph by Rachael Lanzillotta, from the Eye Music website

The Music:
1. “Shuffle” by Alison Knowles
Shuffle around the performance space
Shoooop shooop shuffle (hush) drink from a thermos shoooop

2. “Drip Music” by George Brecht
Amplified water drips drip drop drip drip splat!
Amplified ice melting (almost melodic)
Dripping water from eyedroppers, cups, syringes, watering can, folded up wet towel, into plastic tub, wok, wad of crinkled foil
…too long (getting bored)… (snoring sound from closing window)
kerplunk splash drip drip plink plunk

3. “Instruction” by George Brecht
(Turn down the audience lights)
Bring old radio (1950’s) on a stand, place in front of stage, walk away
Another player walks up, bows, gingerly touches (investigates) radio, turns it on briefly (two bursts of static), bows, walks away
Retrieve radio and stand

4. “Piece for any number of vocalists” by Alison Knowles
(To the audience) “Hum any song that resonates in your entire body.”
He conducted us humming. (The first song that occurred to me was the guitar riff from “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas.)

5. “Newspaper Event” by Alison Knowles
(audience still humming)
Players read newspapers in various European languages (Italian, English, German, French)…conducted for volume & intensity.
“Money saving tips!” “Story about acid attack is…” “Louder! Louder!”

6. “Instruction” by George Brecht
Bring old radio (1960’s) on a stand, place in front of stage, walk away
Another player walks up, bows, gingerly touches (investigates) radio, turns it on briefly (burst of static), walks away with radio
Retrieve stand

7. “C/T Trace” by Robert Watts
Try to catch plastic coin pouch with plastic monkey toy. It falls onto a music stand when not caught.

8. “For La Monte Young” by Emmett Williams
(Still trying to catch coin pouch)
“Excuse me, is La Monte Young in the audience?”
(to one audience member) “Are you La Monte Young?”
(answer) “I used to be.”
(reply) “Congradulations!”

9. “Piano Piece for David Tudor #2” by La Monte Young
Inspect the sides of the piano keyboard keep looking at lid
(ice continues to drip)
thump thump rattle creak !
Move piano from side to side clunk stomp on the floor !
Blow dust off of the piano lid (again) one note! Another (let ring)!
Look inside piano
(During the intermission I asked what the instructions actually were. The pianist said that he was supposed to close the piano lid without making any sound whatsoever. Any other sounds may be made during this process.)

10. “Boundary Music” by Mieko Shiami
All musicians (seven) on stage. (Strong perfume drifts by.)
Flute overtones. Quiet. Cello strum. Quiet. Bowed Celtic harp. Quiet. Sounds blend into a barely-perfectible drone. Rattle seed pod. Deep reverberations (electronic?) – fade in and out. Shake long hair to make sound(!)
Snap! Harmonic drones. Crack. All stop, look around.

11. “South no. 3 (Malika)” by Takehisa Kosugi
ssssssssssssssssss (groan) owwwww (squeal) ooohhhhhhh (sing) thhhhhh
s! ow! oo! (frown) thp! ssssssouuuth
soouuuth southhhh (slobber) thhhhhhh sssss (dry howl) thhhhp!
s ow oo south s – ow – oo – th サー アオー ウー thー

12. “Constellation no. 4” by Dick Higgins
Conduct. One loud, brief, explosion/squawk from all instruments.

13. “Flute Solo” by George Brecht
Show flute to audience, take flute apart, put flute back together, bow.

14. “Instruction” by George Brecht
Hurry! Run! Bring old radio (1970’s) on a stand, place in front of stage, run away
Another player stomps up, prepares to karate chop radio, hurriedly switches radio on and off (kkhhh!) instead
Stomp! Stomp! (Ice in bowl echoes.) Walks away.
Retrieve radio and stand (stomp stomp).

15. “Organic Music” by Takehisa Kosugi
2 kaens
breathy sound from sax
comical/obscene sound from balloons
microtonal drone
blow across bottle whooooooo

16. “96” by Clifford Burke
Huge hand gestures with paint created a giant sheet of music; this was cut apart into 96 notebook-paper sized cards. These were distributed among the players (and three were put on a music stand facing the audience).
pluck scrape flute flutter crescendo chaos glissando scatter regroup hummm whistle whoosh fwump! clatter feedback whine plucked cello cadenza mwooom mwooom mwooom (electronic) white noise at end
Rearranged, unarranged, disarranged
In the style (more or less) or Anthony Braxton

17. “Looking North” by Christian Wolff
Drone (airplane? No!) Irregular drumming, plucking on Celtic harp. Harmoniums and Tibetan bells create beautiful drone. Stops. Electric bass sounds, then flute cadenza (Japanese mode). Silence. Faster electronic thumps (rhythmic) – mournful cello. Microtonal.
(After the concert I asked the flautist if the flute cadenza had in fact been based on a Japanese mode. She said yes and showed me a small Japanese flute.
“It looks nothing like a shakuhachi,” I commented.
“It’s easier to play,” she replied.
“That’s good!” And I recounted my brief encounter with the shakuhachi, some twenty years ago. The first time I tried it, I got it to hum a nice sustained note. Any time after that, I couldn’t get it to make any sound at all.

18. “Sticks” by Christian Wolff
blow on sticks (fftt) clatter (rolling sticks in hand) clunk of sticks together
drop sticks on floor rub sticks on floor tie sticks together, untie
wooden slabs with resonators (like marimba)
drop sticks on guitar strings and cello strings
break sticks (snap!) Bow across ends of stick (keeeeee!) TLACK!
rub sticks together, use floor as resonator

19. “Play” by Christian Wolff
Short plucks, scrapes, becomes longer drone. Rubbing strings of Celtic harp with Popsicle stick produces static-like schchchchssschch!
Drone becomes dissonant, tense. One player blows up a balloon. He continues to blow it up. And he continues to blow it up. Chord is now unbearably tense! Will he pop the balloon!?
No. He lets it go, flying aimlessly into the air. Music stops.
(This piece seemed to comment on the several meanings of the verb “to play”: play an instrument, play a game, play with toys, play with someone’s expectations; and perhaps the entire piece could be thought of as performing an [abstract] play.)

20. “Stones” by Christian Wolff
Rub stones together on moon lute, and on floor
Stone wind chimes
Drop stones on floor
Roll round stone (like grapefruit) around on floor
Bow stones (high squeals and squeaks) – birdlike, avian
(Third bowed stone made no sound)
Metrical clicks, marimba-like tones.

So that was the concert, actually more of what used to be called a “happening”. Most of these were performance pieces based on text scores (i.e. instructions) rather than written “music” in the usual sense, and all except the Clifford Burke piece dated from the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s. (The Clifford Burke piece was written by the performer of the saxophone, and was receiving its first concert performance.)

After the concert I noticed the Celtic harp player using an e-bow to produce drones from his instrument. “Just yesterday, a clerk at Guitar Center in Lynnwood told me that that was impossible!” I told him, truthfully. “He said the sound made by an e-bow on an acoustic instrument is too quiet to be heard.”

He shrugged, “It works on any instrument that has the right kind of strings.”

A few minutes later I got to talking to another audience member about some other experimental music concerts I’d seen, including the one with the contrabass clarinet and electronics at the gallery on Capital Hill.

“When was that?” He asked.

“About a month ago.”

“…Contrabass clarinet and electronics?”


“That was me.” He was Paul Hoskin, whom I’d seen with Jesse Kudler, Gust Burns, Chandan Narayan, and others (see my August 28th posting).

My overview of the whole thing: fun music, though most of it probably wouldn’t work in recorded form – hence the name of the band, “Eye Music”. One has to see it to hear it. (Of course, the name also comes from the fact that they do "graphic scores" more than traditionally notated music.)

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